\ just a little bit of history repeating

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autumn in New York

autumn in New York

West Broadway 29/10/2013

 

untitled [ West Broadway 29/10/2013 ], digital photograph, dimensions variable, Mike Brookes 2013 – from the ongoing small pieces of everything series.

 

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…almost time to leave

…almost time to leave

merry go round

 

untitled [ Firglade Avenue 23/10/2013 ], digital photograph, dimensions variable, Mike Brookes 2013 – from the ongoing small pieces of everything series.

 

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walking

walking

As our final public work here in Providence, Rhode Island, today we walked the now ascent shoreline of the natural cove that shaped the original geography of this city – a body of water and salt marsh reclaimed and almost completely covered by developments of the city’s centre over the last 150 years.

 

Providence cove [event detail]

 

Accompanied and met by local residents, we followed the streets and paths that now sit above the water’s edge, meeting the scale and geography of the cove’s now absent water – as mapped on city surveys of the mid 1800s – through a simple navigation of the developments and daily uses of its area in the present…

 

Providence cove [event detail]

 

Photos: David Higgins

 

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introduced birdsong

introduced birdsong

Today we conclude our Historic parking lots of Providence project, highlighting thirty of downtown Providence’s surface level parking lots that – contrary to assumptions that they are spaces of transition, neglect, or failed development projects – have in fact been designated as parking lots, and have remained unchanged and in use as such, since at least the 1950s.

 

introduced birdsong [detail]

 

Our intervention into the autumnal city streets today – which we are calling Historic parking lots of Providence / introduced birdsong – completes a line of work that we initiated here back in August with the proposition that the selected lots might be collectively nominated for listing, their impact and character being considered against the National Register’s eligibility criteria of ‘age’, ‘integrity’, and ‘significance’.

 

introduced birdsong [detail]

 

Actively considering the selected lots collectively, as a single site, as a single element of the city’s use and structure, we have introduced identical small movement-sensitive audio devices, each containing the recorded song of a single bird – in this case a Lincoln’s sparrow – into all thirty lots simultaneously, for one working day.

 

introduced birdsong [detail]

 

With this act, the work finds a initial form, that we hope might at least enable direct and daily personal encounters, at a city scale, while allowing us to subtly shift the aural ambient of this city centre in actuality. And its realisation has – as we had also hoped – already provoked questions, conversations, encounters with bemused police officers, and amusement for some of the area’s parking lot attendants…

 

Photos: David Higgins

 

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chorus

chorus

As the low evening sunlight floods the studio, we are opening its doors, for the first public prototyping of some of our introduced birdsong boxes. Installed, in this case, simply as a single fifteen metre choral row along one wall of our temporary home here in Salina – waiting to be met and triggered…

 

introduced birdsong

 

Image: Mike Brookes

 

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greetings from Salina

greetings from Salina

Wrapping up one thread of our engagement with aspects of this city’s past and present – as both a playful exploration of the shifting character of downtown Salina, and an attempt to generate a tangible trace and record of the people we have met here – we have been inviting locals to join us in the realisation of a participatory work we are calling Greetings from Salina / crossroads of the nation.

100 residents have been trying to inset themselves into a series of 20 large scale images we produced from original archived postcards – of the area around the central intersection of Santa Fe and Iron Street, where the city originated, dating between 1900 and 1975 – generating an accumulating series of new and personal postcards…

 

event detail

 

…we are leaving the resulting postcards here, to be exhibited until the end the of the year, when they will be available for collection by all those who appear in them…

 

Image: Mike Brookes

 

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bison stew, beer, and entropy

bison stew, beer, and entropy

Closing the fourth week of our residency here in Salina, we have spent this weekend with the Land Institute – a small but world renowned agricultural research centre sitting just outside the city, now almost forty years into its ongoing mission to develop hybrid perennial grain and oil seed crop species, and practices of polyculture, that might enable “an agriculture as sustainable as the native ecosystems it displaces” – a relaxed and refreshing weekend listening to leading scientist, researchers, economists and financiers, discussing possible futures, in an old open wooden barn, under a very clear blue Kansas sky…

 

parking lot #1

 

untitled [ Salina 14/8/2013 ], digital photograph, dimensions variable, Mike Brookes 2013 – from the ongoing small pieces of everything series.

 

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still thinking about parking lots

still thinking about parking lots

parking lot #1

 

Fountain Street and Mathewson Street, pen and watercolour on paper, 100cm x 175cm, Mike Brookes 2013 – from the parking lots of Providence series.

 

parking lot #1

 

Further details from the parking lots of Providence series can be found in the archive [ here ].

 

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postcard from the past

postcard from the past

postcard #20

 

Greetings from Salina [looking north on Santa Fe Avenue], one of a series of twenty digital images adapted from archived postcards depicting 20th century views of Santa Fe Avenue in Salina KS, dimensions and proportions variable, Mike Brookes 2013 – from the participatory image work Greetings from Salina / crossroads of the nation, part of the just a little bit of history repeating project.

 

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thinking about parking lots

thinking about parking lots

For the first time in quite a while, I find myself drawing as I think. I have never really sketched works, unless I need to describe them to someone else. I think them through, then make them. As usual, these drawings are really just another case of making more than one thing at once – or, at least, shaping more than one form. But they are a sign of how at home I feel in the open warehouse sized studio we have been provided with for our stay here…

 

parking lot #1

 

Broadway and Atwells Avenue, pen and watercolour on paper, 100cm x 75cm, Mike Brookes 2013 – from the parking lots of Providence series.

 

parking lot #1

 

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here we are…

here we are…

Eighteen months after the last public work in the series – in which we ‘revisited’ the now absent buildings of the former Euskalduna Shipyard in Bilbao – we have shifted our focus back to the development of our long term just a little bit of history repeating project. And for this phase, we have moved to the US for the next few months, to work through two separate and distinct located commissions – one in the Rhode Island city of Providence, the other in Salina Kansas.

After an intensive initial ten day research tour of Providence – kindly guided by local residents, historians, archivists and journalists – it’s already time to pause, regather our thoughts, and preparing for the move inland and our introduction to Salina…

 

flag

 

Image: Mike Brookes

 

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a map to find meetings in places that aren’t there

a map to find meetings in places that aren’t there

Euskalduna plan #1

 

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time lapse

time lapse

Three photos of the just a little bit of history repeating site in Bilbao – firstly the working Euskalduna shipyard and docks, then its subsequent dereliction, and the present (the Guggenheim is nestling behind the tower block that now stands over one end of the site):

 

Euskalduna #1

Euskalduna #2

Euskalduna #3

 

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visiting absent buildings

visiting absent buildings

Rosa Casado and I are back in Bilbao, a city that we have begun to form a bit of a relationship with over recent years, having been awarded two separate residencies here, and now two public commissions. We will be based here for the next two weeks, as we complete a new located work from our just a little bit of history repeating project.

Here, we are realising the work with four ex-workers from the Euskalduna shipyards – the industrial heart of this city until it was closed in 1984 – and will present it within the open public spaces that now occupies much of the vast Euskalduna site, adjacent to the Guggenheim, on the bank of the river.

Tomorrow this final phase of the work here will begin at site, as we try to meet fragments of the now absent shipyard buildings that were central to the working days of these four individual former employees, simply through their in situ personal descriptions of details and movements within the architecture of those buildings.

 

press image #1

press image #2

 

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a title recycled for works containing nothing new

a title recycled for works containing nothing new

As I head off to Bilbao to meet ex-workers from the Euskalduna shipyards, who have kindly agreed to work with Rosa and I on the next work from our just a little bit of history repeating project – commissioned for this coming autumn – I have been revisiting some of the project’s previous thoughts and proposals, revealed through our attempts to return found sounds or descriptions of past places and events to the sites that they describe.

As usual, these works are manifest mainly in the meeting. Or at least, in having happened nearby. But for those who missed it at the time, here is a trace from one of the first two manifestation last summer – Alexandra Gardens Bandstand – sound placed in public space, broadcast via FM radio amongst the amusements of Weymouth’s seafront promenade, accessible to anyone with a radio who chose to engage with it:

 

 

More about the Bilbao commission when it develops…